Looking Back: My perspective on the Little League World Series

I took a stroll down Memory Lane last weekend.

With the news of all the success of youth baseball in Connecticut, I felt the need to finally dig up some old articles and photos from the summer of 2004. That summer, my all-star team from Greenwich went to the Cal Ripken World Series, the less publicized twin-brother of Little League.

John PaschallMy team would go on to tie for third in the nation that summer after we lost to Raleigh, North Carolina. Some would say that the CRWS is a little more over-done than Little League, because we had a skills competition before the tournament even started, which included events like a Nike-sponsored Home Run Derby and a running-the-bases competition.

It was a fun but slightly unnecessary addition to the already flashy spectacle that was our arrival at the World Series.

That summer felt like an eternity. As the starting pitcher and closer (roles I would switch every other game), I threw hundreds of innings and thousands of pitches. Not only did I get an incredible farmer’s tan, but I also grew out a lucky pair of sideburns that I thought rivaled Elvis’ (and I kept them until I was 15).

I didn’t see much of my school friends that summer because I was constantly traveling to obscure locations around New England to play in tournaments. My family even had to cancel a vacation to upstate New York because our team kept winning.

But looking back on that summer nine years later, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I understand the argument that Little League is given way too much exposure in the media. They’re only 12-years old, and they are put on national TV during prime time hours. I didn’t have camera crews asking me who was my favorite baseball player or what was my favorite subject in school, but after every game, I would go look in our local paper to see if my name was mentioned or even if our team got a write-up.

It was an exciting thing for a young kid to do. Those were the days before people could search the Internet for themselves in the news or look for their highlights on YouTube (I feel like a dinosaur for writing that).

I thought having my name in the paper was the coolest thing that could happen to a 12-year old. But fame never affected our team. We were so engulfed by playing baseball that the players never talked about who got all the publicity.

If the media attention ever got to anyone, it was the parents, who would sometimes put pressure on their kids to perform well, knowing that a spot in tomorrow’s paper was at stake. That’s the only negative effect I ever saw from the media attention.

Now, 2004 is no 2013. Today, social media dominates everyday life and there are digital platforms that didn’t exist nine years ago. We have reached that fine line between covering the LLWS without breaking it down like an MLB regular season game.

Hopefully there’s never a day when ESPN hires a full-time LLWS analyst or expert to break down the field and tell us what teams to look out for next year. If that ever happens, the exposure would be far over the top.

Despite some criticism surrounding increased media coverage, it is inarguable that new digital platforms help create and store more memories to look back on years later. I would kill to see highlights of myself playing back then. Instead I’m digging for old newspaper articles while recent LLWS players search YouTube for highlights of their teams.

But that’s something the Westport and other Connecticut youth baseball teams can do in nine years on their trip down Memory Lane.

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